Women cel­e­brate be­ing in the driver’s seat

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

Few is­sues have been as po­lar­is­ing in the con­ser­va­tive Is­lamic king­dom as the pro­hi­bi­tion on fe­male driv­ers, which Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man vowed to end as a key part of his plan to open up the king­dom’s oilde­pen­dent econ­omy and loosen so­cial re­stric­tions.

The gov­ern­ment has been keen to pro­mote the end of the ban as a sign that women’s rights are ad­vanc­ing af­ter decades of in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism, even af­ter sev­eral of the coun­try’s most prom­i­nent women’s rights ac­tivists were ar­rested last month in a na­tional se­cu­rity-re­lated case.

They in­cluded some women who have fought for years to be able to drive.

Many Saudis breathed a sigh of re­lief when the gov­ern­ment an­nounced in Septem­ber that it would end the driv­ing ban.

Oth­ers have qui­etly op­posed the move, ar­gu­ing that al­low­ing women to drive vi­o­lates lo­cal cus­toms and could lead so­ci­ety down the path to sin.

‘‘My heart is pump­ing,’’ one woman said af­ter start­ing her en­gine, sud­denly over­taken by nerves.

‘‘You’re go­ing to do great!’’ a pas­sen­ger shouted from the back seat.

Then she drove off, mu­sic float­ing from the open win­dows as a cho­rus of women cheered her on. – Bloomberg

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